SANTAMARIA: Changes in Lineup Aid GU’s Success in Big East Opener

In its Big East opener, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (8-5, 1-0 Big East) downed DePaul (6-7, 0-1 Big East) 70-58 behind senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s 15 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals. Though he has struggled from the field — especially from beyond deep — this season, Smith-Rivera made both of his three-point attempts on the day.

Much of the team’s success can likely be attributed to Head Coach John Thompson III’s first change in the starting lineup this year. For the first time in his Georgetown career, sophomore guard L.J. Peak came into the game off the bench, with sophomore guard Tre Campbell taking his place in the starting unit.

Campbell is a true point guard and can initiate the offense but also play off ball, due in part to his three-point shooting ability. This trait, in contrast to Peak, who is a more ball-dominant slasher, allowed Smith-Rivera to play his natural position of shooting guard — something he has not done since he played with true point guard Markel Starks (COL ’14) in his sophomore season.

Furthermore, this switch allowed Peak to avoid the early foul troubles that have plagued his performance during the past two games. As a result, Peak scored an efficient 14 points in 26 minutes to go along with sophomore forward Isaac Copeland’s 15 points and six rebounds.

On the day, the Hoyas’ top three scorers — Smith-Rivera, Copeland, and senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes, respectively — combined for 44 of Georgetown’s 70 points, draining a combined six three-pointers on just 10 attempts.

DePaul Head Coach Dave Leitao attributed the trio’s shooting to the Blue Demons’ porous defense.

“We didn’t talk a lot, and as a result, the defensive positioning wasn’t great,” Leitao said. “The best way to defend the three-pointer is to communicate and then step up to it. We were a step or two behind on defense.”

Despite DePaul’s lackluster three-point defense, which allowed Georgetown to shoot an efficient 43.5 percent on the day, its star, junior guard Billy Garrett Jr., poured in 21 points while notching five rebounds and five assists.

However, the Hoyas managed to pressure Garrett, causing his five turnovers. Additionally, Georgetown succeeded in slowing down Garrett’s wingman, senior forward Myke Henry, who tallied just two points on the day, well below his average of 13 points per game.

Garrett believes the Blue Demons were inconsistent on offense throughout the game.

“We didn’t run plays with enough pace, and when we did have some success, we kind of stopped what we were doing,” Garrett said.

Georgetown’s defense was an additional factor in disrupting DePaul’s offensive flow, which held the Blue Demons to an inefficient 39 percent from the field and 33 percent from the three-point line.

“[Georgetown’s] length bothered us some,” Leitao said. “We didn’t do a good job moving their length around. When we’re good, everybody is moving the ball. We saw their length and got back on our heels. We didn’t look sharp at any point and didn’t play with enough flow on offense.”

The Hoyas struggled in the beginning of the game and missed their first few shots, but similar to other games this season when their shots weren’t falling, their defense kept them in the game.

The Georgetown offense returned in the second half firing on all cylinders. Bench scorers Peak and junior forward Reggie Cameron combined for 23 points and 58 minutes, showing that the Hoyas have offensive threats in both their starting and second units.

While Hayes has received much attention this season due to his improved play, Cameron has consistently been the Hoyas’ leading scorer off the bench, as well as the team’s most dependable three-point shooter.

With sophomore forward Paul White missing Wednesday’s game and his status remaining uncertain going forward, Cameron will likely see big minutes. And in limited minutes, freshman center Jessie Govan produced some accurate passing and solid team defense.

Regardless, the rest of the Georgetown’s bench, along with Campbell, must elevate its play if the team hopes to notch a win at home on Saturday against Marquette (10-3, 0-1 Big East), which is coming off a blowout 83-63 loss to Seton Hall (11-2, 1-0 Big East). Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.

PaoloSantamaria_Sketch

 

Paolo Santamaria is a sophomore in the College.

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